Way too much information
We do not see Reality, we see what we perceive as Reality.
Reality has too many details to be recorded registered, computed, analyzed.
Only a portion of the world is actually available to us at any given time and it is in fact not what you may think. I am not talking about what is out of sight but rather of what is plainly right in front of you.
When we are conscious, we are mostly making use of Brain 3, the slowest part of our neural system. That part is able of attention, to put names on things, classify them in categories and follow instructions. But it is slow. Several million times slower than the others, Brain 1,0 and Brain 2. It cannot handle all the information that is fed to the other two.
The parts that are managing hearing, eyesight and other devices to get outside information are submitting only a selection of what the attentive part needs at the moment. We are conscious of only a fraction of what is going on
All the leaves on a tree
You cannot see all the leaves on a tree but our eyesight does.
It is in the field of vision so the light waves emitted by each leaf actually reach the eye. Brain 1 can see millions of colors and details but that information is both useless and cumbersome for the Conscious, Brain 3.
So all that is passed to you is foliage, with maybe a couple of shades.
That is it.
The rest is obliterated.
If you want to see something in that foliage, you have to pay attention to it.
Then you are passed along more detailed information about it, at the cost of the clouds above it and the other trees around.
You can see (some of) the leaves now. Your eyes can see them all but your brain cannot, or at least not consciously.
Brain 3's Mental checklists
In order to make life easier, mental checklists are created.
What is not on the list is more than ignored, it does not even exist. To your conscious brain at least.
Only some type of information is sought after and that pre-selection is dictated by our preconception and beliefs and in general, our view of the world.
The Husband Checklist
Where do you think the reputation of men to be oblivious to their spouse's hairdo comes from?
The mental checklist. Let's abuse of a classic stereotype for a moment.
- Spouse here? Checked.
- Hair and limbs still on? Checked.
- Move on.
Is spouse dressed like yesterday? Spouse's hair is a mess? Does spouse have a new outfit? Not on the list.
But another -important- checklist could be
- Did neighbor get a new car?
- Is new car the XX Z100?
- With all the premium options?
- Checked, checked and checked.
To the spouse, the same car may trigger a different checklist
- Is car color agreeable? Checked.
- Move on.
Brain 1's Mental checklists
These Neocortex checklists cannot even compare with those of the Reptilian or Limbic brains that include items like color, speed, size and shape of every single object within sight and weight, feeling and temperature of everything we are in contact with, plus every single level of the thousands of body fluids we are made of (lactic acid, hormones, gastric acid, saliva, etc.) and every organ status report.
The examples above are certainly entertaining. But when the checklists are missing vital items, some disastrous results are eventually the outcome in the wrong conditions.
The Jurassic Park checklist
A great novel to read is Jurassic Park. The movie was great entertainment, but the novel (by the Late Michael Crichton) is a great exploration of Chaos Theory and other fascinating concepts.
So the managers of the Jurassic Park are monitoring the dinosaurs
They are very proud of all the technology involved in tracking the animals. They never missed one dinosaur and the headcount is updated on screen every 15 minutes. They are on top of it. Or so they believed.
Since they artificially produced every dinosaur released in the park and they were engineered so not to reproduce, their main concern was to not lose one. A dinosaur at large was to be avoided at all costs. All is fine since every single dinosaur is always accounted for.
But there was a flaw in their procedure
- They were not seeking to see how many dinosaurs were out there.
- They were searching for the dinosaurs that were released.
The difference between the two concepts may not be apparent but they are totally different.
- The first approach would seek to see the Reality
- The second one consists in seeking to see what is expected.
Reality, though, was otherwise, as the animals found a way to multiply, and when the engineers set to search more dinosaurs they started to find more of them. Now they had a real problem and the movie had a colorful way to depict it for our amusement.
This is basically how the conscious brain is functioning. It seeks only information that is expected or that has been asked to be retrieved.
Doing otherwise would quickly lead to a mental overload.
Hit and run
Automobile drivers tend to pay attention to cars and trucks on the road, but do not always expect motorbikes.
Bikes can be rare. The Mind is not seeking bikes on the road because they are not part of the usual inventory.
Why should the brain check for something that is never there?
So what the driver sees is not the reality, but a filtered version.
And many bikers are hit because of that illusion. The driver of the car often says he did not see it.
We think of blaming the bike because it is indeed less wide than a car and harder to see but the root cause is in the fact that bikes are often not expected at all and therefore invisible to the car driver.
WARNING: FRIDGE AHEAD
I know of a guy who had a head-on collision with a fridge.
Nothing but a fridge standing upright in the middle of the highway by clear day and no traffic.
The driver was in a program to recover his lost license because he did not see the fridge. That was in an era before texting even existed.
Not to me
Of course you , in particular, are an exceptional individual who is not subject to the laws of physics and nothing goes by you, right?
There is no way you had missed a fridge in the middle of the road.
Don't look up and tell me what is the color of the wall in front of you.
Don't think or recall it, just say it.
That wall was there the entire time, yes?
Yet it took you maybe one second to name its color.
Now imagine you are driving your car at 60 miles per hour.
An object stands in the middle of the road and enters your field of vision.
- By the time your realize there is something unexpected in front of you, the car covers about 90 feet.
- By the time your foot is flat on the break pedal, the car covers about 130 feet.
- By the time the car comes to a full stop, it covers about 180 feet.
- Total distance is 400 feet (122 meters)
If it was less than 400 feet away when it first came into your field of vision, you could totally have had a collision with a fridge.
But if it were a car or a truck, you would have been aware of its presence as soon as it entered your field of vision, shaving 90 feet off that distance.
Of course, you may argue.
- What a fridge is doing in the middle of the road, anyway?
- Who cares about the color of a stupid wall when there is such a fascinating post to read?
Please go ahead. You are just making my point.
When our attention is on something, the rest is blurred out, period.
And our attention is limited to what we expect, we are blind to the rest.
I highly recommend you look up the following videos online.
- Derren Brown Person Swap
- Daniel Simons Selective Attention Test
Be aware of the limitation of attention, develop attention to the things you usually do not see.
Cultivate this awareness.